States act on immigration as bills stall in Congress
Immigrants coming to the United States increasingly have a distinctive choice: Live in Red America, where laws clamping down on services to those in the country illegally are winning support, or Blue America, where life is a little easier for them.
While comprehensive immigration reform languished in Congress last year, Republicans and Democrats in 45 state legislatures took decisive action to revise laws.
“We are still waiting for the federal government to fix the immigration system,” said Washington state Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, a Democrat and co-chairman of the National Conference of State Legislatures' immigration task force. “States are doing the best we can with the tools we have available to us. State legislators face fiscal challenges in education, health and law enforcement. To do nothing is not an option.”
Republican-controlled states acted last year to tighten immigration laws since a 2012 Supreme Court decision struck down law enforcement elements of Arizona's Senate Bill 1070.
A handful of Democratic-controlled states jumped into the fray when the Obama administration offered a temporary reprieve, and permission to work, to some young illegal immigrants.
Immigrant rights activists said they were pleased by the progress made outside Washington.
States “witnessed a significant increase in pro-immigrant activity” over the past year, the National Immigration Law Center wrote in an October report.
Tanya Broder, a senior attorney at the center and an author of the report, said, “The blue states are out in the front, adopting a wider range of measures.” But, she said, Republican legislators are beginning to sponsor tuition and driver's license bills in states such as Virginia and Pennsylvania, where the GOP controls at least one chamber. “There are Republicans who are responding to the growing political power of ⅛immigrant⅜ communities,” Broder said.
All told, 437 immigration-related bills were signed into law last year, according to a tally by the National Conference of State Legislatures. And more legislation is likely to make progress in key states this year.
In red states, the focus of legislation has shifted in recent years as laws have run into court challenges.
After the Supreme Court decision in 2012, five states — Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah — passed legislation similar to Arizona's measure. All five laws are subject to litigation.
Those challenges, and the prospect of comprehensive action in Congress, have slowed the wave of strict anti-illegal-immigration measures in state legislatures.
In 2013, only Georgia passed laws amending the E-Verify program for employers and redefined eligibility for some public benefit programs.
The shift in focus has some immigration hard-liners worried.
Most blame the Obama administration, which has relaxed some rules on deportations even as it has set records for the number of illegal immigrants sent out of the country.
“We're going to see ... really a surge of immigration legislation at the state and local level,” said Bob Dane, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an anti-illegal-immigration group. “And the reason is, is because it's really precipitated from the top down. You've had five years of the Obama administration systematically dismantling interior and perimeter enforcement ⅛and⅜ gutting the laws.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- White House evacuated for fence jumper
- Benghazi death prompts $2M suit
- FBI, federal marshals join manhunt for survivalist accused of ambushing troopers
- White House targets sexual assaults on college campuses
- Al-Qaida cell poses as great a danger as ISIS
- Even record-setting retardant drops barely slow Calif. blaze
- Ten Commandments lawsuit tossed
- House preps to aid rebels
- House preps resolution to aid Syrian rebels, combat ISIS
- Red tide threatens Florida economy
- Italian village to honor World War II U.S. bomber pilots